The online market (and even the physical one) is saturated with counterfeit, also known as fake, makeup, promising the look of the real, high-end product for a fraction of the price. The drugstores are jam-packed full of dupe products that promise a similar shade, formula or packaging of high-end products for – yep, you guessed it – a fraction of the price. So what’s the difference? Is one better than the other? I decided to explain why yes, one definitely is.
Have a scroll through eBay, AliExpress, or Wish and you’ll see hundreds of common high-end makeup products for sale for under £10. At first, you might just see a bargain and hit ‘add to basket’ quicker than I shove Smarties in my mouth, but stop. And think. Are they a licensed distributor? Why are they selling a £40 palette for £4.99 – how would any business make money on that? Is it coming from China instead of the UK or US?
Why is fake makeup so bad?
The counterfeit makeup industry is very much illegal, as they are claiming their products are something they’re not. It’s the same as Pirate DVDS, almost – the product claims to be the real deal, but the quality won’t be the same and the original artist will not be gettign profit from their work. Perhaps more horrifyingly, due to being completely unregulated and therefore not subject to ingredient testing, fake makeup products have been found to have poison, other dangerous chemicals, superglue, urine, faeces, and other scary ingredients. These can cause chemical burns, allergic reactions, poisoning and damage to the skin (glued together lips, anyone?). The ingredients on the fake packaging will not be what’s actually inside the product.
Consumers may also be getting scammed by fake products. I’ve spent £21 on a lipstick (that retailed for £18 in the US and wasn’t readily available in the UK) that turned out to be fake, despite being very near RRP and advertised very convincingly as real. I didn’t realise that fakes were even sold at those sorts of prices and assumed the seller had imported the lipsticks to sell in the UK (which explained why it was slightly more expensive than RRP). I ended up losing out on what for me is a lot of money. Many other people will do the same as me and end up with a fake product that they’ve paid genuine prices for. They may not even realise they’ve picked up a fake and will recommend to their friends which will line the pockets of the counterfeiters, or not enjoy the product at all and be put off from that makeup brand for life, despite not actually trying their products.
As well as all of that, the counterfeit industry fuels other illegal trade like traffiking, unsafe/illegal factories (sweatshops), slave labour and drug trade. Is that something you want to support?
So, how do we tell if it’s fake or not?
99% of the makeup you see on eBay and other selling sites like DePop and Mercari (and 100% of the makeup on AliExpress/Wish) will be fake, especially if they’re selling more than one. If it’s an individual selling a single makeup product claiming to be genuine, make sure the picture isn’t taken from another site (Google Image Reverse Search), and ask for Proof of Purchase, comparing the seller’s name and address to the name and address of the PoP. If the picture used is their own picture, look at YouTube videos and blog posts that compare the real product to the fake and see if you can decide if it’s real or not. But if you’re in any sort of doubt, don’t buy! No one will sell a new or lightly-swatched high-end product for cheaper than 80% of the value unless it’s very damaged. It’s always better to buy from a legitimate distributor.
There are also many professional-looking websites that claim to sell the genuine product, and you may be sucked in with the pictures and reviews. Check with the original brand if the website is a licensed distributor (message them on Facebook or Tweet them for the fastest reply) and they’ll most likely not be. For example, KylieCosmetics.com is the ONLY website that sells genuine Kylie Cosmetics. Genuine high-end makeup online retailers in the UK include BeautyBay, CultBeauty and CocktailCosmetics. There are more, but make sure you research the sites fully before you purchase.
And what are dupes? Are they better?
Dupes are products that emulate a more expensive or high-end product by ‘copying’ the colours, format of the product, packaging or even the name. Dupes are very much legal as they don’t advertise themselves as the produts they’re duping, and aren’t copying the original product so much that they are indistinguishable. They will use their own formulas and style.
Makeup Revolution and its sister brands are undoubtedly the queens of dupes, having produced many popular dupes of products such as Too Faced Chocolate Bar range, Charlotte Tilbury lipsticks and the Urban Decay Naked palettes. Dupes are controversial, especially from a brand that seems to sell dupes more than original products. However, I don’t believe duping is a bad thing whatsoever, unless a brand isn’t producing original content at all. TAMBeauty sells so many of their own, original products (and is worth a look for quality products at very affordable prices).
Not all of us can afford high-end products, so companies that produce dupes aren’t ‘stealing customers’ or anything drastic like that. They’re catering to a separate audience entirely (that being said, I know that people buy from both the high-end brands and from those that dupe them, but speaking in general, you’ll only really buy one or the other – there’s no point buying a dupe of a product you already have unless you’re a YouTuber/Blogger like me and like to compare them for the views!).
But isn’t copying wrong?
Before I get comments about how it isn’t fair that companies like Makeup Revolution copy others like Charlotte Tilbury, please bear in mind every other industry in existence. Heinz Baked Beans vs Branston Baked Beans vs Tesco Value Baked Beans. Valentino Heels vs Topshop Heels vs Primark Heels. Flash Cleaning Product vs Sainsbury’s Cleaning Product vs Poundland Cleaning Product. Pandora Bracelets vs Chamilla Bracelets vs Market Stall Bracelets. Every single product originates from an idea borrowed or copied and developed from the ones at the top. That’s how the market works – similar products are created on different levels; it caters to everyone’s different incomes and priorities.
Even if you’re not a fan of either fakes or dupes, I think everyone agrees that it’s better to have regulated, legal dupes rather than the illegal fakes saturating the makeup market.
Fakes are destroying the makeup industry, just like pirated movies are destroying the film industry. It’s up to us to stop it. Sites like eBay will remove a listing if the products are fake, so don’t be afraid to report listings. You can also report websites for selling fake makeup to Action Fraud (which is police-run), Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline, Trading Standards, and in the US, stopfakes.gov.
Slam those companies and sellers on their review section, twitter, and wherever else you can. Shut them down for good.